The Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA) is the first comprehensive national accountability system created by community colleges, for community colleges.
Community college leaders – facilitated by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) – conceived, developed and pilot-tested the first set of VFA metrics, which gauge how well our institutions perform in serving a variety of students and purposes.
The VFA has three parts described in detail in the VFA brochure (link):
1. measures of student progress and outcomes;
2. measures of workforce, economic, and community development; and
3. an approach for assessing student learning outcomes.
Existing accountability measures in higher education do not adequately measure the unique mission of community colleges. For example, existing measures may exclude part-time students or non-credit career and technical students who are a key part of community colleges’ mission. In light of the inadequacy of existing measures, the VFA stands to provide community colleges with a significantly improved ability to assess their performance, identify areas for improvement, and demonstrate their commitment to their academic mission.
The data collected and shared will be specific to community colleges and focused on telling internal and external audiences what they need to know to shape improvement strategies and provide resources. There is enormous potential for the VFA to be the framework that satisfies a variety of reporting requirements and simplifies the work of institutional researchers, accountability and effectiveness professionals, and presidents.
The VFA project participants and working group members examined many existing accountability initiatives to help shape their work. However, the VFA differs from other initiatives because it 1) is specific to community colleges, 2) is applicable to all community colleges, 3) defines measures that can be used to garner resources and inform improvement strategies, and 4) will provide a data tool that enables colleges to benchmark their student progress and completion data against peer institutions. If many community colleges agree to and participate in the VFA, the potential exists to streamline accountability reporting and significantly enhance the analysis and use of data to meet the goals of the colleges.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation for Education funded initial planning of the VFA and development of the metrics with equal grants totaling $1 million. For long-term sustainability of the VFA, AACC and the working groups will develop a business model and explore other support options.
AACC selected 40 pilots through a Request for Proposal process to ensure that a broad variety of colleges would be testing the proposed measures. The colleges selected were different in size, geography, demography, institutional research capacity, and structure (centralized or decentralized reporting system). For a listing of the sites and for more information on the pilot testing, please see the press release.
More than 40 community college leaders from a variety of types of institutions and state systems are involved in the development of the VFA. Four working groups (link to roster) made up of college presidents, communications professionals, accountability and institutional effectiveness staff, institutional researchers, and trustees members from a cross-section of colleges are worked to identify and define measures to include in the VFA. AACC VFA staff, the higher education community, and researchers are assisted the working groups in designing the VFA. Throughout the development of the Framework, a steering committee (link to roster) composed of college leadership, trustees, and researchers reviewed the work of the groups and helped to make final decisions about the VFA.
The VFA has three parts: measures of student progress and outcomes; measures of workforce, economic, and community development; and an approach for assessing student learning outcomes. These three parts are described in more detail in the VFA brochure (link to brochure). The AACC has made the VFA metrics available to all colleges and will provide an online data display tool in 2013.
· Learn more about the VFA by exploring www.aacc.nche.edu/vfa, signing up for a webinar (link to webinar page), and reading VFA publications (link to publications and resources).
· Inform colleagues at your institution and at other institutions about the VFA.
· Consult the VFA Metrics Manual (link to manual) to learn what data are already available to your institution and how to collect the data you need.
· Start using the VFA measures at your college!
We need your input to make the VFA an appropriate and usable accountability framework. Contact AACC with your suggestions and questions. VFA@aacc.nche.edu